EAST VINCENT—A man who barricaded himself inside his house on Christmas Day after being despondent over a separation from his wife was persuaded to surrender after a SWAT negotiator sang him a Christmas carol.
Nathaniel Lewis, 34, of 327 Aftons Circle, Spring City, was arrested for attempted homicide of multiple police officers following the 10-hour ordeal.
At 9 p.m. on Dec. 25, East Vincent Police went to the Lewis's residence in East Vincent. The police were responding to a well-being call from a family member who was concerned about Lewis. Lewis was in the process of separating from his wife and was behaving erratically.
East Vincent police officers responded to the residence and secured the area. The police were told that Lewis had a firearm. One of the Chester County SWAT teams, the Chester County Regional Emergency Response Team, then was called out to assist.
The SWAT team established a perimeter and began to negotiate with Lewis, attempting to get him to surrender peacefully. Lewis, a member of the National Guard, was in possession of a rifle. The SWAT team had an armored vehicle near the residence to protect the police officers.
Over the course of several hours, Lewis started to fire at police officers from inside the residence. His gunshots hit the armored vehicle with police inside and outside of the vehicle, as well as hitting another home and nearby civilian car. Police returned fire. Another Chester County SWAT team, the West Chester Emergency Response Team, was deployed to assist the first SWAT team as the situation escalated.
At 6:11 a.m. Dec.26, Lewis again fired from inside of his home, prompting a sniper to return fire by firing one shot into the residence. Four minutes later, Lewis again fired multiple shots at the law enforcement officers, which resulted in return fire. Less than an hour later, Lewis exited his home and surrendered to police after hearing a SWAT negotiator sing “White Christmas” to him. After the song, Lewis promptly surrendered to the SWAT team and was taken into custody at approximately 7 a.m. on Dec. 26, 2018.
The Chester County District Attorney's Office was immediately called out to assist with the investigation of the defendant and perform an independent investigation of the officer-involved firearms discharge. The Chester County Detectives performed the independent investigation. The SWAT team members were interviewed and the scene was processed. The District Attorney determined that the SWAT team members were legally justified in returning fire when the defendant was shooting at them.
"Incidents like this are why our SWAT team trains constantly,” said East Vincent Police Chief Matt Williams, who also is the leader of the SWAT team. “Despite the extreme danger to the police officers, the team responded calmly and professionally, resulting in the eventual surrender of the defendant."
Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said police officers acted with courage to quell the situation.
"This defendant is lucky he did not kill a police officer,” Hogan said. “The SWAT team members deserve the highest praise for their courage and dedication. While the rest of the world was going to bed after a long Christmas day, our office officers were laying their lives on the line for hours in the bitter cold."
Lewis has been charged with multiple counts of attempted homicide, aggravated assault, and related offenses. He has been committed to Chester County Prison.